Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

GSMArena team, 3 November 2020.

Design, build quality, handling

The iPhone 12 Pro may be tempting with its new features, but the Series' new design will be a decisive factor for many iPhone 12 Pro purchases. Even a few of us in the team share this sentiment.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

The iPhone 4 and 5 designs were iconic. We've been hoping for their revival ever since we saw it recreated in the iPads, and it's finally here. Odds are that the iPhone Series 12 will be remembered for this redesign rather than for introducing highly advertised features like 5G.

The new Ceramic Shield glass is at the center of the new and improved design - it's a new Corning-made glass with added microscopic ceramic crystals that made this year's screen glass tougher. The new screen glass is, reportedly, 4x times more resilient to shattering than the iPhone 11's. And it seems all these enthusiasts' drop test videos online confirm the new iPhones are much more shatter-resistant.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

The Ceramic Shield is also ion-strengthened against scratches and comes with Apple's oleophobic coating for improved smudge resistance. No screen glass is scratch proof yet, but the fingerprint smudges are very easy to clean.

The back panel looks gorgeous - it's the same frosted glass from the iPhone 11 Pro but flat. The rear panels of the iPhone 12 series are not made of the same Ceramic Shield material. They are the same as last year - meaning they have the same shatter and scratch endurance as the iPhone 11's. And it's nothing bad, but it's not the same thing you get on the front.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro reviewApple iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro

Even so, the frosted finish on the back glass provides better scratch resistance. If our experience with the iPhone 11 Pro is anything to go by, it may get marks from objects in your pocket, but they disappear without a trace with some rubbing and wiping.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

The back panel of the iPhone 12 Pro is the exact opposite of the iPhone 12's - it's a frosted panel combined with a glossy mirror-like camera square. The same thing is valid for the new flat frame, too - now it is this stunning shiny piece of stainless steel instead of the lighter and frosted aluminum chassis on the iPhone 12. You can't have an all matte iPhone this year, and that's that.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro reviewApple iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro

The steel frame wins premium points for the iPhone 12 Pro, and it does make for a luxurious look. It is flat, of course, and for what it's worth, the 12 Pro can also stand upright on its own.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

However, the extremely glossy frame is a fingerprint magnet, and it's a hassle to keep clean. It gets covered in ugly smudges in less than half an hour of use.

Stainless steel is also heavier than aluminum. The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro have completely identical parts, excluding the extra tele camera and the LiDAR scanner. Yet, the iPhone 12 Pro is 35 grams heavier than the regular iPhone 12, and we believe it might be due to the frame.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

Finally, the worst thing about the frame is the lack of any grip. If you are using the iPhone 12 Pro without a case - it's tough to pick it up from your desk or nightstand, not without a high risk of dropping it halfway. It is very slippery!

The iPhone 12 Pro is IP68-rated for dust and water resistance, but the new design has allowed Apple to enhance its water protection even more. Now, the iPhones are promised to survive in 6m-deep water for 30 minutes. This and the Ceramic Shield make the 12th generation one of the most durable non-rugged smartphones out there.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro reviewApple iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro

The Apple iPhone 12 Pro features a similar screen to the iPhone 11 Pro but a bit larger- it's a 6.1" Super Retina XDR OLED. The notch is still enormous notch, but the bezels are thin.

One of the major rumors this year didn't become a reality - the 120Hz ProMotion screen. We will never know why, but it is disappointing that even the more expensive Apple flagships still come with 60Hz displays. This upgrade is long overdue, and we would have traded 120Hz for that 5G connectivity in a heartbeat. It is what it is.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

Inside that eyesore notch are the same features as seen on the iPhone 11 Pro - a stereo speaker/earpiece in the middle, the Structured Light 3D camera on the left, and the 12MP selfie shooter on the right. Face ID is still your only biometric security option, and it seems Apple has no plans of offering a next-generation Touch ID sensor. It's a real pity to only offer a face unlock option in times when we are forced to wear masks so much.

The screen is completely flat. There is not even a 2.5D finish along the edges.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

The rear panel is also flat, frosted graphite in our case, and it looks great. The Apple logo is a small mirror, as usual.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

The camera square is jutting out just a little bit, and it contains three 12MP cameras - primary, ultrawide, and telephoto. The LiDAR scanner and the dual-LED flash are in here, too. The square glass has rounded corners and is so glossy that it is practically another mirror piece on the back.

All three snappers have small metal rings around them, protruding about a millimeter from their shared glass. And finally, all these snappers are protected by sapphire glass pieces, which extend about half a millimeter over those rings. These thoughtful arrangements made for a camera setup that's not looking like a giant swell on the phone and makes for less wobbling.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

But the tough sapphire glass pieces are the things touching the surface you put the iPhone on, and there is a high risk of scratching glass or otherwise glossy tables, let alone other smartphones. So while you are getting excellent protection for the cameras, be mindful of where you rest your iPhone. And most certainly, don't stack it on top of other phones!

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

The frame may have a new shape, but it has no other surprises unless we count the repositioned SIM tray - it's now on the left. Also on the left are the flat volume keys and the good old silencer switch.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

The Side/Power key is alone on the right, while the bottom has the Lightning port, the mouthpiece, and the other stereo speaker.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

The iPhone 12 Pro is as big as the iPhone 12 and 3mm taller than the 11 Pro. It is much heavier than the iPhone 12 but has the same weight as its predecessor. Thanks to its new frame - it fits better in hand and feels somewhat more secure than the iPhone 11 Pro.

But holding it doesn't feel even nearly as secure as the iPhone 12 and its matte frame. Even if it looks sharp around the edges, the glossy frame still transitions smoothly towards the glass and provides a minimal, if any, grip. It's a pity you need to put a case on this gorgeous body, but you really need to, sorry.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro review

We are big fans of the flat design and angular shape, and we do appreciate the shatter-resistant glass and enhanced water resistance. It is probably a technological achievement worth exploring even more. But we think the iPhone 12 Pro deserved a more thoughtful frame polish than this glossy mess as its flaws outweigh the benefits by a mile.

Reader comments

  • Jimmy

Well, you can buy them and they would be very useful. Do you not think?

  • Isa

Then basically go ahead and use a flash drive instead.

  • Anonymous

It’s a phone not a portable hard drive...